Making holes on wood has been around for ages and the various tools we humans have used to make them have significantly improved since hole cutting tools were first invented. We have tools to make holes in wood from as small and simple as a pinhole to something as large as a hole in the wall or as intricate as artistic designs on wooden panels. And in our day and age, it is so easy to find them because almost everything you now need can be bought online.
If you are looking for a tool to make holes in wood, there are different types of tools you can choose from. It all depends on how small or big the hole is, how deep or shallow, what shape, or for what purpose you are making a hole in wood.
1- Hammer and Nail
The simplest hole you can make in wood is a pinhole. You can do this using a hammer and nail. If you need to make a hole through a thin wooden panel or board to screw a hook on, a hammer and nail can get the job done, if you have no other tools available.
The awl, however, can also get the job done, of making a pinhole. It was designed to make holes. The awl is a pointed steel tool, with a grip or handle made of wood or colored translucent acetate. It can make holes in soft material including plastics, leather, and wood. It not only creates holes, but can also make existing holes bigger. Although intended originally for leather, the awl is a very useful tool to make holes in wood.
You can buy a good quality awl online for an average cost of $5 with no extra features.
The gimlet or twist gimlet is a long steel tool with a screw tip and a spiral blade with fluting for deeper manual boring. Its handle is made one-piece from the same length of hardened steel, twisted and shaped like an eyelet. The handle is designed for better grip and handling for pushing and twisting. The action is similar to that of a corkscrew when you begin to open a bottle of wine. The gimlet is a more effective tool in making pilot holes for screws than the awl. And it is more practical and handy to use for making small pilot holes for screws compared to an electric drill.
A set of 4 to 7 different size gimlets costs around $10, online.
The chisel can make holes of any shape and size on wood. It has a sharp flat tipped edge, and is designed to cut wood in straight lines, squares, triangles, and rectangles. However, you can also make round or circular holes with a chisel. The chisel is often used with a mallet or hammer. But it can also be used to cut holes just by pushing it down with the grip of your hand. A carving tool can do a similar job on thinner and softer wood, but you don’t usually make holes using a carving tool.
The price tag for a set of 4 chisels (1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″) online, is $15.
The gouge is a special kind of chisel. It has rounded, semi-circular (curved) edge blades. Gouges’ edges cut wood in a variety of curves from wide and shallow to narrow and deep using a wooden mallet. The gouge is often used in sculpting artistic designs on wood and is also a useful tool to make holes in wood. Because gouges are used especially for wood carving and sculpture, they are more expensive than regular flat-edged chisels.
You can buy a single gouge online for less than $20. A set of 12 costs (cheaper by the dozen) around $100.
The drill, whether manual or electric, makes larger and deeper holes than the awl and gimlet and is the most readily used tool to make holes in wood, especially by a handyman. Or if you don’t have elaborate woodworking machines setup at home, the hand drill is the general-purpose tool. Drills have exchangeable bits, of different diameters, that are fitted inside an adjustable chuck. The tiniest drill bit you’d probably use is a 1/16″ bit, and the largest, a 1-1/2″ bit, if ever you’ll need one! You can choose from any size in between, with 1/16″ graduations. However, drills not only vary in bit diameter but also in their form and function.
6- Egg Beater/Hand Drill
The egg beater drill is called that because it looks exactly like an egg beater except for the drill bit. It functions like a typical egg beater using a rotating gear on the side connected to a single pinion that powers the drill shaft. The egg beater makes small holes on wood similar to the gimlet, usually as pilot holes for screws. It is more precise and more versatile than the gimlet because you can change the drill bit. The egg beater drill is perfect for making concave holes to fit the head of countersunk screws, using a countersunk bit. With the egg beater drill you can manually control the speed and depth of drilling.
The cheaper kind of egg beater/hand drill, with a chuck key and bits set, goes just a bit above $20, while the more expensive brand can cost you above $50.
7- Brace and Bit Drill
The brace and bit drill is a neat and dandy tool to make holes in wood. It has a crank-shaped arm with a brace (handle) that rotates 360 degree on a center axis, with a flat and round head handle on top and the drill bit at the bottom. It’s rotation is called a “sweep” and is measured by twice the distance of the brace handle from the center axis. The brace of a 12″ sweep is 6″ away from the center axis.
The brace and bit drill are used by a woodworker to make holes for mortices and peg holes for joints. It uses auger bits for ease of drilling. Auger bits have screw tips that pull the drill to the wood and wide flutes that easily dislodge wood shavings and waste from the hole.
A good quality brace and bit sells online for above $60. It is a good investment if woodworking is your hobby.
8- Twist Drill
This is the most common type of drill bit you see regularly associated with the drill. The twist drill bit. The bit is made of hardened steel with two sharpened edges with grooves that spiral around the body. The grooves are designed as a channel to remove wood chips from the hole and also as a channel for air or lubricant to prevent the drill bit from overheating. The twist drill is one of the most common and useful tool to make holes in wood. It is also the most versatile especially in making round holes with a wide range of diameters and for any purpose.
A set of twist drill bits costs from $20 to less than $50 depending on the quality of alloy the drill bit is made of, and the number of drill bits in a set. While a set of rechargeable cordless drill kit with the power driver (motor) and drill bits costs around $40.
9- Auger Drill
The auger drill bit is similar to the twist drill bit because the sharpened edge also spirals around the shaft body, and uses a rotary action when drilling. The difference lies in that the auger has wider body clearance, a very broad flute, and sometimes only one sharpened edge. This is used to make deeper holes especially on wood with harder and denser body. Another feature that makes the auger bit different from the twist bit is that the auger drill bit has a screw-type tip. This is designed to pull the drill into the wood when drilling, thus lessening the need to apply more downward pressure on the drill driver.
A good set of 6 – 7 auger drill bits can cost from $25 – $35 online.
10- Spade Drill Bit
This is also called the paddle bit because it resembles a paddle. It has a pair of wide bladed lips led by a sharp point. It is shaped wide near the tip and tapers off a bit as it moves down the body much like the shape of a paddle. The wide bladed lips of a spade bit makes rough holes and is normally used to make holes that are shallow or that will be further covered or finished, like holes on walls where you’d pass electric cables or pipes through.
You can get a set of 6 spade bits for a bit over $10, and double that amount, $20, for a dozen.
11- Stationary Drill
This is also called a drill press. In the case of a stationary drill, the drill shaft hangs on a fixed vertical axis, suspended, and a lever controls its downward and upward movement for drilling. The drill press can simply be an assembly, a stand, that you mount your hand drill on or a stationary machine that is designed specifically for drilling. The stationary drill is best used for repetitive drilling, like drilling an array of holes along a line.
A typical drill press stand for a hand drill won’t cost you more than $50. However, a stationary drill is much more expensive and costs anywhere from beyond hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
A saw is a serrated steel blade with a handle, typically used for cutting wood. It cuts wood along a certain length using a backward-forward motion, in repetition. However, there are hand saws and power saws that can make holes in wood. A coping saw or a jigsaw can cut holes in wood. Unlike a regular hand saw, the coping saw has a blade so thin that can be easily maneuvered to follow the curves of a circle while cutting through wood. They are often used to cut large holes on thinner wood panels.
12- Coping Saw
The coping saw is named for its function — it copes. It copes with whatever shape you are making in the wood. It has a very thin blade (1/10″) that can weave its way following bends and curves while cutting through wood. The span of a coping saw can reach up to 6″. This is the distance of the saw blade from the frame (bow). This means you can cut a hole of any shape that is within 6″ from the edge of the wood, where the bow can move around from. The coping saw has its limitations since it can only make interior cut-out holes on wood with thinner width (2″ or 3″ is thick enough). However, it can cut shapes on edges of wood with thicker width.
A coping saw can be bought online from between $10 – $20.
The jigsaw, sometimes also called a sabre saw, is a motorized saw. It is a reciprocating saw that cuts wood by a push-pull action. The position of the saw blade can run alongside parallel to the body, similar to an electric knife or it can jut downward from the body panel. The jigsaw can make a hole in wood from the edge of the article you’re working on, that is, from the outside cutting in. Or it can begin cutting somewhere in the middle through a pilot hole large enough for the jigsaw blade to fit. The jigsaw functions like a motorized coping saw you can use to make holes of different shapes and sizes.
Jigsaws are more expensive because they’re motorized. You can get a good deal anywhere from $40 to $60.
14 – Hole Saw
A hole saw is the perfect tool to make holes in wood. It is designed precisely for that purpose. The hole saw literally cuts a hole in the wood, and not simply bores or drills through the wood. A hole saw blade looks like an inverted cup with serrated lips. The hole’s diameter follows the diameter of the serrated cup. The hole saw is also power driven by an electric hand drill, a stationary drill machine or a drill press. It can cut a hole from 3/4″ to around 6″ in diameter. And it usually leaves a circular piece of wood as its by-product, not just wood chips and shavings.
You can buy a 20-pc hole saw kit online for $20.
15- Circle Cutter
A circle cutter moves like a compass — it has a fixed center point, and a rotating outer (peripheral) point that marks the circle all around. In the case of a circle cutter, the rotating outer point is a sharp blade, or two sharp blades opposite each other on the mount. It is attached to the rotary shaft of a hand drill or stationary drill and makes a hole in the wood as the drill is pressed downward on the wood. It can make a larger hole than a hole saw.
A good single or double circle cutter bit won’t cost you more than $20. You can get one online even for $10.
How To Cut a Hole in Wood
It is helpful to know the kind of tool to make holes in wood. Because these tools were designed to cut holes according to their construction. And it is a good practice to use the appropriate tool for the hole you need to make, considering there are such tools readily available online.
One of the basic requirements on how to cut a hole in wood is a stable bench or table to work on. You cannot do without this basic article. You can buy a good working bench/table online for $140. The expense is worth it, since this will be your work station most of the time, because you’ll need a level plane to work on, and affix wood articles you’ll make holes in, which only a stable bench or table can provide.
Then, you’ll need at least a pair of wood clamps. For $20 you can invest in a set of good quality wood clamps. These tools help you keep the wood article in a fixed position while you drill it or cut a hole in it. It isn’t safe to merely hold on to the wood or press it down with your knee, especially when using power tools. And if you’re using a brace and bit drill, merely holding on to the article of wood won’t do. You need the wood firm and fixed on its position on a level plane, without moving a bit.
For example, to use a manual coping saw, your wooden piece needs to be clamped on a fixed plane, like a table or a bench. You can either start cutting from the edge going inside, or you can drill a hole on the inside and start sawing the hole from there. The line the coping saw follows is directly straight from where you hold its handle. But the wood article you are working on needs to be fixed and not moving, otherwise the wood article will swing along with the motions of your coping saw.
Lastly, for your own safety, wear protective goggles, working gloves, and safety shoes. Next, check out our article on table saw fences here. They’re another good wood working tool and our guide shows you how to make your own. Until next time!